By Bernie Cahiles-Magkilat
Only 28 percent of Philippine-based companies are implementing telecommuting or work at home arrangement, although a large majority of 87 percent are open to the idea, a survey conducted by the Employers Confederation of the Philippines (ECOP) showed.
ECOP, the country’s largest employers’ organization, conducted a survey to determine the prevalence of telecommuting practices following the enactment into law of Republic Act. No. 11165, otherwise known as “An Act Institutionalizing Telecommuting as an Alternative Work Arrangement for Employees in the Private Sector.”
Survey results showed that out of 98 company respondents, only 28 percent implement a telecommuting or telework arrangement. The top three industries represented in the survey came from the manufacturing industry (20%), IT/BPM industry (11%), and services industry (10%). Majority of the respondents are large firms (56%), small (27%), and medium (17%).
ECOP Chairman Ed Lacson said that telecommuting is an option made available to employers/employees and best left to management discretion for implementation as they address situational needs of business.
“Interpersonal relationship in an office setting cannot be replaced by telecommuting arrangement. Thus, low rate of implementation is not worrisome,” said Lacson.
Lacson stressed that ECOP welcomes the telecommuting law, which recognizes the role of digital technology that allows humans and machines to work together seamlessly and productively.
But he also stressed that the law should not be used to address traffic problem but to provide an alternative work arrangement.
Despite the slow adoption to telecommuting, the survey showed that 87 percent responded said they are open to the idea given that the following are available: Appropriate equipment; better Internet connection; software for monitoring working hours and output; best practices/benchmarking tools from their industry; restructured organization (e.g. definition of roles and responsibilities); and guidelines and policies.
ECOP Director-General Jose Roland A. Moya said that the law does not require companies to adopt telecommuting stresses saying it is voluntary.
“Employees should offer telecommuting and it is up to employees if it will accept or reject, not forced,” Moya said.
The management will decide how to implement telecommuting because they are the ones to asses the implication on productivity, efficiency and work preference. The nature of the industry is one thing management must consider.
Moya said that while there are already adoptors to telecommuting, the law was just reinforcing it so that companies comply with the Labor Code if they offer this work arrangement.
The survey also revealed that companies implement telecommuting because of the heavy traffic to and from the workplace; for the promotion of work-life balance and flexibility; business need (e.g. multinational companies with operations in different time zones); and, enhancement of employee engagement and retention.
The telecommuting arrangements of most companies cover only managerial employees. In terms of employment status, consultants and project staff are also allowed to telecommute.
In terms of Fair Treatment, more than three-fourths (86%) answered that telecommuting employees receive the same benefits as that of their non-telecommuting counterparts.
For companies which responded otherwise, telecommuting employees are no longer eligible for transportation and meal allowances, overtime pay, and additional pay for additional days worked.
In terms of Data Protection, majority (68%) have provisions for data privacy and protection in their telecommuting policy. Some of the contents on this provision include employees on work-from-home arrangement should always work in a secure environment; employees are also required to ensure that company data (personal identifiable information and client information) remain confidential; meetings in public places are prohibited; and laptops should be encrypted, and equipment use is monitored.
Only 36 percent of respondents said they have encountered differences in the interpretation of the telecommuting/work-from-home policy. Filing and payment of overtime topped as the number one grievance among those telecommuting followed by need for employee to stay connected and be contactable during work hours; determination of work hours/rest hours; and need to define company liability for employees practicing telecommuting.
The ECOP survey, which was conducted from February 11 to March 4, 2019, also revealed that telecommuting allows employees to work amidst treatment for medical conditions/illnesses; promotes flexibility in work schedules; increases productivity and efficiency; promotes work-life balance; enhances self-esteem and confidence from feeling trusted; saves time, as well as transportation cost and meal cost; and ensures safety from calamities and disasters.
Company benefits of the practice were evidenced through: continuous operation with minimal interruption; more satisfied and productive employees; better employee engagement and retention; less work-related casualties and injuries; savings on operational costs; and optimization of working space (e.g. seating arrangements).